IBM plans to unveil its second-generation BladeCenter on Feb. 8, CNET News.com has learned, as it tries to keep its top spot in sales of thin but high-end servers.
The launch of the system, confirmed by sources familiar with the plan, is scheduled to take place at a press event in New York. The blade server upgrade is key to Big Blue’s attempt to stay ahead in the strategically important and fast-growing market. Blades are clearly a priority for Big Blue: In an interview earlier this month, Susan Whitney, IBM’s top Intel server executive, was quick to stress the company’s blade server prowess.
At the same February event, IBM is also expected to announce its new JS21 blade server, which is the first model to incorporate IBM’s PowerPC 970MP processor. The chip uses dual processing engines, or cores, unlike the model used in the most recent blade, the JS20.
In addition, IBM is expected to promote its Blade.org collaboration aimed at making the BladeCenter line into something akin to an industry standard–even if Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sun Microsystems, the three other major server sellers, shun the design.
IBM declined to comment for this story. However, Big Blue said last year that it planned an overhaul expected to improve the BladeCenter’s networking and flexibility. In particular, the communications “backplane,” which links the blades to each other and to an external network, is expected to increase data transfer capacity tenfold to 40 gigabits per second. Earlier blade models will fit into the new BladeCenter chassis, and new blade servers will fit into the older chassis.
Blade servers fit side-by-side into a chassis that typically supplies shared resources, such as power and external connections, to networks and storage systems. In their earliest days, they were simple low-end systems. Now they’ve become high-end models with emergency backup features, fitted with blades using as many as four processors, and built-in high-speed networking.
Blades involve considerable engineering challenges in both hardware and management software. Because of that, the major server manufacturers–which collectively dominate with about 80 percent of revenue in the server market–see blades as a key way to distance themselves farther from lesser companies that have more generic designs.
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